Steena Joy – Mumbai
Maharashtra Tourism will be starting sea plane operations in the second week of November. The first flights are scheduled to be from Juhu to Aamby Valley near Lonavla. This was announced by Chhagan Bhujbal, minister of tourism, Government of Maharashtra recently. Bhujbal said, “The seaplanes will use our lakes or dams to land and take off,” further adding, “We want to introduce new products like adventure tourism, hot air ballooning etc. We have recently signed agreements with Quebec and Japan to boost inbound tourism numbers from these countries. The New York Times Square Diwali event was a huge success which was attended by nearly five lakh people. So we need to publicise our products to bring the tourists in.”
Bhujbal was speaking at the launch of a joint initiative between Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), Sky Waltz and Rainbow Riderss who are introducing hot air balloon safari in Mumbai, Pune and Lonavla. MTDC managing director Jagdish Patil, Sky Waltz top executives Samit Garg and Jai Thakore were present at the official launch. Sky Waltz is the first and the largest licensed and approved commercial hot air balloon operator in India, authorised by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Government of India. The company is already operating hot air ballooning in Rajasthan since 2008. The company will operate two flights daily. The entire experience will be of three hours including filling the air in the balloon and a guided tour of the balloon for enthusiasts and will cost Rs 12,000 per head. Presently, Sky Waltz has a fleet of seven hot air balloons.
According to Garg, over 15,000 people have enjoyed hot air ballooning with the company since its entry into India.